Ikhwanweb :: The Muslim Brotherhood Official English Website

Thu93 2020

Last update18:06 PM GMT

Back to Homepage
Font Size : 12 point 14 point 16 point 18 point
:: Issues > Democracy
Egypt’s emerging political intrigue
Egypt’s emerging political intrigue
Egypt hasn't generated many international headlines in recent years. It's been some time since its government played much of a leadership role in the region, and Egypt didn't suffer as much damage from the global economic slowdown as most other emerging markets. Things have been pretty quiet.
Friday, May 7,2010 18:35

Underneath the surface, the transition toward a post-Hosni Mubarak era is starting to get interesting. President Mubarak's son Gamal has been steadily building a case to become Egypt's next president with both his father and the country's military leadership. Despite hesitation from both, authorities pushed through constitutional changes in 2007 that smoothed Gamal's path to power. For the past two years, he has worked to persuade the military brass--Egypt's real powerbrokers--that his ambitious economic reform plans will not undermine their financial interests or political influence.

But over the past few months, two developments have created genuine uncertainty about what comes next. First, President Mubarak, now 82, has struggled with a serious illness, increasing the risk that he might be forced to relinquish power for health reasons or even die before the next election (in 2011) and before his son has closed the deal on succession. Second, Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has emerged as a surprise independent player in Egyptian politics.  

The past few weeks have added to the intrigue. President Mubarak, now home from hospital following gall bladder surgery in Germany, faces unprecedented pressure to send a clear signal about what he wants to happen next. The safe play would be to name a vice president from among his inner circle, someone like Security Chief Omar Suleiman or presidential chief of staff Zakaria Azmi. Either would represent continuity and reassure an increasingly anxious military. But the president appears reluctant to take such a definitive step.

He could also bow to domestic and international pressure to amend Egypt's constitution to allow for a more open electoral process and a genuinely contested presidential election. But ElBaradei's popularity, his unexpectedly high political profile since returning to Egypt from the IAEA, and the real possibility that he could win an open election make that decision unlikely.

As a result, Hosni Mubarak, in power for nearly three decades, will likely brush aside questions about his health and signal that he intends to run for yet another term.

That would leave Gamal in a tough spot. ElBaraadei's rise has raised new fears within the military that Gamal is not the strongest choice. If the current president dies before the election, the military might well stage a soft coup (since legally, it's now difficult for anyone within the ruling party but Gamal to capture the party's presidential nomination). If the military decides this bold move would jeopardize relations with Washington, Gamal might be allowed to run and win. But he would find himself, at least initially, a president with far less power than his father has enjoyed.

Then there's the longer-term uncertainty.  No matter who succeeds Hosni Mubarak, ElBaradei has captured the imagination of a segment of Egypt's population hungry for change, a diverse range of supporters that includes a meaningful percentage of the public, a number of public intellectuals, and even a portion of the conservative elite. He's also shaken things up by taking a less confrontational approach than anyone now in government to the Muslim Brotherhood, a position that Egypt's military will not accept.

ElBaradei probably won't run for president next year, but he and his supporters seem willing to play an interesting role in Egypt's political future as a catalyst for anti-establishment protest via civil disobedience. These protests won't immediately shake the foundations of Egypt's political establishment, but it's been a long time since the country had a relatively weak president and a potentially potent opposition.

That will make life much less predictable within what has long been one of the world's most stable autocracies.

Ian Bremmer is president of Eurasia Group and author of The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War Between States and Corporations? (Portfolio, May 2010) 


tags: Mubarak / ElBaradei / Gamal Mubarak / IAEA
Posted in Democracy  
Related Articles
Mubarak rejects opposition demands for constitutional amendments
Mubarak's 82nd birthday celebrated with a not so happy nation
Why The West Should Relinquish Mubarak
Netanyahu and Mubarak continue talks despite opposition in Egypt.
Mubarak's war on Islamists
Egypt’s Mubarak warns opposition, talks stability in first speech since surgery
Mubarak : Any individual is welcome to enter Elections!
Egypt’s Mubarak, Libya’s Gaddafi talk peace
Avoiding the Mubarak pyramid scheme
ForeignPolicy.com: A Closer Look at the “Mubarak Trust Fund”
French President calls off trip to Egypt due to Mubarak's health
Egyptians believe Mubarak grooming son for power
Mubarak attends first cabinet meeting since surgery
Gamal Mubarak meets with Top U.S. business delegation
In Egypt, the Twilight of the Mubarak Regime
Mubarak appoints new Azhar President
MB chairman dispatches welcoming telegraph to President Mubarak
Mubarak well enough to leave hospital
Mubarak well enough to leave hospital
MB chairman wishes Mubarak safe homecoming and speedy recovery